National Crime Agency officers have assisted an operation in France which has seen more than a dozen arrests in connection with the deaths of 27 people attempting to cross the English Channel in a dinghy last November.
The victims drowned after the boat they were sailing in sank off the coast of Calais. Five other people were arrested in France soon after the incident.
OCRIEST, the French border police unit targeting immigration crime, arrested 15 people across locations in France on 27 and 28 June, as part of a joint investigation being carried out with the NCA.
NCA officers based in the UK and internationally worked with colleagues in OCRIEST and other international partners to provide evidence to identify those who were arrested in France.
Among those held in the operation were nationals of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and France. They are suspected of being part of a network of facilitators who organised places on the boat for a number of those who died. They will all now be subject to French judicial proceedings.
NCA Deputy Director of Organised Immigration Crime, Andrea Wilson, said: “The events of last November were a tragedy, but in that time our resolve to bring those responsible for these deaths to justice has not diminished.
“We have worked closely with our French partners to identify those who we suspect were involved, and that joint investigation continues. It is also assisted by Border Force and Maritime and Coast Guard Agency in the UK.
“Many of those involved in organising these dangerous crossings operate outside the UK, so it is vital we work closely with law enforcement partners in France and beyond to target them.
“This includes having NCA officers based overseas, sharing intelligence and working side by side on joint investigations, as we have done in this case.
“Tackling people smuggling remains a priority for the NCA.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “My thoughts continue to be with the families of all of those who tragically lost their lives in this horrific incident. “The NCA and other agencies across the UK and France will continue their tireless work to deliver justice for the victims and their families by identifying those responsible and ensuring they feel the full force of the law.
“By working together, and through the tough new domestic measures we have just brought into law, we will crack down on the evil people smugglers in our efforts to prevent any more loss of life in the Channel.”
The NCA has a team of liaison officers based in France working on investigative activity with French partners both as part of Project INVIGOR, the UK’s organised immigration crime taskforce, but also on wider threats that require Anglo-French law enforcement co-operation.
This means NCA officers on the ground in France, not just exchanging intelligence but working with the French police to collaborate on both proactive and reactive investigations, including those with a particular focus on small boats threat.
2 July 2022